Books hold great importance in our family of avid readers, so creating a children’s home library was a given when I found out I was pregnant with my son.
Over the years I’ve discovered ways to support my voracious reading habit and build a nice book collection without putting a major dent in my wallet. Before I was pregnant with my first child, I began building a library of children’s picture books that I envisioned decorating the nursery and playroom (it helped that I had worked in bookstores and in children’s publishing). Some of my earliest and fondest memories involve the wonderful characters and worlds I visited through books. For my family, books make a house a home.
Once my son arrived, I realized that he needed an array of different books to keep his attention, as well as board books that he could handle (without the fear of him destroying them). I’ve built a children’s home library, comprised of 200+ titles, without spending a fortune and you can too. Here are 8 ways to build a children’s home library on a budget:
If you’re expecting, a great way to get a start on a fabulous children’s picture book collection is to add a few to your registry or, better yet, have people give children’s books in lieu of cards. Birthdays and holidays are also great times to suggest books as gifts (instead of toys).
Used Book Stores
This is a given, but I wanted to point out that you can find great deals on children’s books at used book stores. I am lucky enough to live near a used book distributor, who does the majority of its business online, that has small retail space set up in its warehouse. I’m able to grab children’s books for $1 each, and if I buy five, I get one free. You never know what you’ll find; I picked up a signed copy of Skippyjon Jones for one dollar!
Most public libraries have a small section devoted to selling used books to raise funds year round, in addition to annual and semiannual large sales/book fairs. I scored big last year when my local library was selling used children’s books for $.25. Even if you’re not looking for anything in particular, it never hurts to browse the section while you’re visiting the library, you may just find a gem or two.
Ebay and half.com
I’ve been able to find some of my favorite childhood titles (Carolyn Haywood’s Betsy books) on eBay. And just this past Christmas, after checking out Merry Christmas, Maisy from the library, my son fell in love. Out of renewals, and with a 17-month-old asking for “Maisy!” all day, we searched everywhere for this book! Local bookstores didn’t carry it, so we checked online retailers – all were on backorder. In a bit of a panic, I finally found several used copies on half.com and, after a mix-up, we now own TWO copies of Merry Christmas, Maisy (for the price of one new)!
Garage/yard sales may be one of the cheapest places to buy children’s books. People are looking to get rid of unused items and books often aren’t big sellers (trust me, I’ve tried selling mine at yard sales!). Because books aren’t big sellers, people price them to move at yard sales, which often means you can grab children’s books for a quarter or less. This isn’t the best way to buy children’s books if you have specific titles in mind, but you may come across an unexpected find.
Thrift stores are a great place to buy children’s books, as you never know what you’ll find! I’ve had great luck finding children’s holiday titles (Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving) at highly discounted rates. I LOVE holiday books because they are packed away for most of the year, which makes them special reads. Unpacking holiday decorations, and unearthing the holiday books, helps to build excitement for the season (some of my fondest holiday memories). I was able to pick up a few Halloween and Christmas titles last fall for $.10 each at my local thrift store.
And, my husband recently found a couple of vintage Star Wars board books to give to my son when he’s a little older; not only were they fun for my husband and myself to reminisce about, but they’ll make great books for my husband and son to bond over.
Bargain Book Sections
Most bookstores have a section for what are called bargain books. Bargain books are a combination of publisher overruns/overprints and budget publishing titles. These titles will be a little more expensive than the above options, and the selection not as great (budget publishing titles are definitely not award winners), but they’re new/unused books and it never hurts to take a look at what they have. If you care more about the story than the illustrations, then bargain book sections are a great place to find classic children’s stories.
Children’s Consignment Sales
The larger the sale, the better the selection. I’ve found many great books for our home library at biannual children’s consignment sales. If you’re super thrifty (like me), you grab your favorite/most sought after titles during the regular sale and then come back to browse the selection during the half-off sale time. Like a yard sale, people tend to price books to sell at these sales, often bagging multiple titles together (as books, again, aren’t typically highly sought after items) and offering an inexpensive price; I’ve typically purchased bags of four to six board books for $5 or less.
For our family, having an engaging and varied children’s home library is more important than toys. In fact, my son reaches for books before he reaches for toys! Building a nice children’s home library doesn’t have to cost a fortune, as long as you’re okay with used books and diving into mismatched bins and shelves from time to time. Toys come and go, but books create memories that last a lifetime.
What are some of your favorite ways/placed to find deals on children’s books?